Should Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt Resign Over BSkyB

After Revelations of his cosy relationship with the Murdochs he won’t last long

Newly released polls show an all time low for David Cameron’s popularity as prime Minister, but these figures were set in stone long before the Leveson Inquiry put James Murdoch on the stand yesterday. More bad news for the PM has surfaced as Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected Labour party calls for him to resign over claims that he privately supported attempts by News Corporation to take full control of BSkyB. In June 2010. News Corp had been bidding to take over the 61% of BSkyB that it did not already own outright. The Leveson inquiry had James Murdoch on the stand yesterday and surprise,surprise he suggested that Mr Hunt leaked off the record information to News Corp, about the impending deal, which was a conflict of interest. The Labour leader Ed Miliband said emails given to the Leveson Inquiry showed Mr Hunt had been a “back channel” for News Corp rather than being impartial.  Mr Hunt has insisted that he had handled the process with “scrupulous fairness”. However a string of emails released by the inquiry into press standards suggests there was a steady flow of information from the culture secretary’s office to News Corp advisers, while the firm was bidding to take over the satellite media network. Does this sound impartial? The Shadow Culture Minister Harriot Harman has also called for Hunts resignation.

Hunt has Number 10’s backing for the moment, but his position remains in a precarious  balance. Mr Hunt argues that the texts and emails seen so far are a partial, second hand account of what was going down. Labour said the documents showed Mr Hunt failed to fulfil his quasi-judicial role over the BSkyB bid. Mr Miliband said: “He should resign. He himself said that his duty was to be transparent, impartial and fair in the BSkyB takeover. “But now we know that he was providing advice, guidance and privileged access to News Corporation. Not a level playing field which smacks of a done deal! Hunt was acting as a back channel for the Murdochs, something we all suspected.Mr Hunt has claimed that he behaved with absolute integrity when he considered the case, and Prime Minister David Cameron said he had “full confidence” in his culture secretary. Haven’t we heard this sort of two faced rhetoric before?

The issue is likely to dominate Prime Minister’s Questions today and Ed Miliband may probe the Prime Minister about his chat with James Murdoch about the BSkyB bid at a dinner at Rebekah Brooks’ house in December 2010. This is all sounding too cosy! At the same time, Rupert Murdoch will be giving his evidence to the Levison enquiry today, testimony that could be very uncomfortable for Cabinet ministers past and present. The question now remains; Will Jeremy Hunt go before the Olympics or after the games?


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